Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mystic Isle - novella by Patricia Rice

by Patricia Rice
reviewed from e-reader

What do you do when your known world is destroyed?
An earthquake and tsunami, how much can a temple take? Tasia, the new priestess of Aelynn must quickly bring her acolytes together and begin the long trek down shaking stairs, carrying all that is necessary including the chalice which must be held and protected as they descend to the waterfront. With three dozen virgins and equal number or more of children, they are about to embark on one of their two supply ships with no immediate knowledge of adventure or of the male sex. In the meantime, those men have no immediate knowledge of the virgins they have always served from a distance, providing supplies to the temple. As they escape in the two boats the tsunami hits, will they make it to calm waters and find land they can live upon?

Tasia is not your usual priestess. She is a Seer, she has visions, lives by them and protects her acolytes by them. She also has a strong personality and direction. She alone is in tune with Aelynn and follows her direction completely. After a strenuous and terrifying ocean voyage, with the ships becoming separated, they finally take refuge on a fog enshrouded piece of land surrounded by rocks, hidden and visible. Tasia follows her visions and sees their way through to the land beyond the rocks. Is this story fantasy, magical, or drama? Perhaps all three. Immediately disembarking their next concern is the second ship which not only has the rest of their group, but many of the supplies and materials for making the new land livable.

Since the land appears to be habitual, and there is no sign of any people or animals, the group begins to set up shelters and find water. After the second ship is found and brought in, things start to get into some form of order. Tasia sees her visions of what is to come and "speaks" with Aelynn. Horatio tends to the men to keep them busy enough not to get involved with any of the virgins. When Aelynn sends Tasia a special message, difficult to analyze at first, Tasia is not sure if what she was told was correct. This was an interesting story, showing vulnerability, strength, magic, will, and clear thinking, and in the end a surprise.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Memory House: Memory House Collection (Memory House Series Book 1)

by Bette Lee Crosby
reviewed from e-reader

Bette Lee Crosby has a beautiful way of writing. A wonderful story-teller, so imaginative and heart-warming. This story of personal loss and finding a future of life, memories, and happiness is amazing.

After her common-law partner leaves, Annie decides to take a few days off work for a restful holiday without a destination in mind. She finds herself in a small town at a most unusual bed and breakfast. There are only two guestrooms and rarely are both rooms let at once. Ophelia, the owner of the home is warmth and giving personified. It feels as though Annie may have been expected, but how could that be? Ophelia seems to know what Annie needs in life and that she is dealing with sorrow. The friendship between these two blossoms beautifully. Ophelia could  be referred to as a Memory Keeper. Once Annie has seen the way Ophelia can receive memories from inanimate objects, though suspicious about the "how" of it, she very quickly learns that it is her gift, too.

Annie has some difficult decisions to make between her work and her former boyfriend Michael's suspicious advances to get back into her good book. Will she return to her former love? Has he really changed? It almost seems so, but time will tell. There are too many changes happening to know. A change of job, a change of location, a change of lifestyle, though some things never change and others lead to fulfillment. What can Annie do, without a job, expensive apartment rent that she used to split with Michael...until he left. Yet, if she listens to her heart she will easily find the answer; she has a soul mate in Ophelia. Her sheltering, peaceful memories may be just what Annie is waiting for!

Ophelia reminds me so much of my grandmother. When I hold or touch anything that was hers it brings me back through our wonderful times together. Now, maybe I understand, as Annie has begun to. I am consumed with this book. Annie is determined to recall the sound of a child's laughter she heard when holding onto the handlebars of a boy's bicycle that is in Ophelia's shed. As Ophelia explains, the memories choose when to come forward and how much to tell. Sounds strange, doesn't it? But I'm sure many people can retrieve good memories of their own past over time, whether they come in the blink of an eye and forgotten again, or over time a part of their lives. These are personal memories though. The memories Ophelia and Annie are finding are not just their own memories, but memories within items found and therefore glimpses of memories from the people who owned or were attached to the items in the past. Short bits of memory can make themselves known whenever Ophelia or Annie hold these items. But these are past memories of persons they have never known. These memories also choose what and when to be retrieved. Will all memories be good? That remains to be seen.

There are some surprises in store in the latter part of the story. While Annie has moved in and works with Ophelia in the apothecary shop, she is constantly drawn to the bicycle she found. She has now learned from the memories stored in the bicycle two of the boy's names and is seeking to locate this person. In a roundabout classic surprise occurrence. she doesn't meet him but she does become acquainted with his son. A magical tale and a shared blessing at having met, Ophelia herself is feeling very happy; when Christmas arrives it seems love is in the air as well as celebrations and who should happen to turn up for the holiday! On meeting Oliver's family Annie knows already that this is where she belongs. Oh, no, she will not abandon Ophelia, they are more likely to share her in my opinion. The elderly lady still has the will to live until her husband finally comes to bring her home into the light. He tells her the time is yet to come.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mariah's Song (A Bud Blair Novel Book 4)

by Rod Collins
reviewed from e-reader

Mariah leads a sad and broken life. At thirteen she tries to care for her Mom, a woman seriously addicted to meth. At the same time she is trying to avoid any contact with her mother's live-in boyfriend Manfred or Manny as he was usually refered to, the facilitator of her addiction and a violent man. It's midnight, and she can hear disturbing noises of violence, maybe a beating, maybe a murder near the garage. She sees a man almost lifeless being beaten with a two-by-four on the head by Manny when he hears and sees her and threatens her. From this moment, knowing Manny will come after her as witness and with certainty that he will kill her, she starts running for her life. In the meantime, he tries to drag the man's body and load him into the trunk of his car.

Mariah is a wonderful character, she keeps you glued to the book wondering what she is going to be able to do to excape next. She is very resourceful and manages at one point to conceal herself in the loft space in the back of a trailer-pickup combo when the driver is getting gas and though has no idea where this rig will be going, she feels somewhat safe. She also manages to hand a note to the cashier at the gas & shop station to call 911 and have them go to her address with an ambulance and the police. As I said, resourceful. I loved this book with all its toughness. The interludes of the police who are also friends gone fishing was a great touch. These guys know how to get the best out of the worst, with the passion, the caring, the difficulties of living a normal life. The major head of the snake is more like the hydra, with drug cartels being the heads. This book takes place pretty much from Oregon to Mexico, a lot of land to cover and cover it the characters in this book do. From sheriffs to FBI to our runaway girl and finally to the cartel homes in Alamos, Mexico, the race is on, to find and save Mariah, to keep Amanda from being blown up, to save Mariah's mother, to catch Manny and much more. Also, there is a very good warning that many people don't think about on what can happen with an Amber Alert: Leave it to the police! A young girl who thinks she is helping by keeping people informed of Mariah but publicly saying she has been found could too easily have cost Mariah her life.

This story also created a background for seeing some everyday small town police at their best. A lot of good planning is involved, but at the same time all of them know it could go belly-up in the twitch of a hair or blink of an eye. The same applies to the FBI, NCIS, whatever other government agencies are there to back up or implement, whichever is needed. Mariah's story is terrifying, a thirteen-year old running for her life and yet she has a beautiful soul. With drug cartels involved in other areas but with a crossover due to Manny as a supplier, the tension throughout is steady, with a few of those fishing breaks and friendship breaks, and even then it's not restful, especially with a bomb in the mix. A trip to Mexico puts a definite crimp in the plans to take on a major drug cartel, one of the busiest doing business in the U.S., when another cartel fouls their plans. This is a book that will grab you, shake you up, and not let go. So much can go wrong and some of it does, but that's what keeps us on our toes in life and in this book it really works. I loved it.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Keep Moving: And Other Tips About Old Age

author Dick Van Dyke
published by Weinstein Books

I have just finished reading this book and I feel great! I've got the genes and I'm going to make the most of it. I'm a mere 77 this year, born in 1940. I come away from this book written by a favourite actor, Dick Van Dyke who has reinforced in me the fact that you need to "Keep Moving" whether by memories and thought, dancing and exercising or just exercising your brain. These are brought home to me every day since Mom turned 100 Dec. 23, 2016 and my Dad turns 100 May 27, 2017, living in their own home and yes, they dance. They have a stuffed musical bear that sings; my Dad grabs the bear and Mom and away they go. Oh, his cousin also turned 100 in January, 2017. So yes, I have the genes. But now after reading "Keep Moving" I have the instruction book, so to speak.

While I was at Mom & Dad's last December, in fact right up to and after Mom's 100th birthday, she was reading this book. I was fascinated, because she doesn't read a lot of books. She kept telling me, "I'm really enjoying this book." With that in mind, when I came back home, I bought 2 of them, one for myself and one for my 94 year old neighbour, my lifeline and pal who I have shared so much history with since moving to northern BC and meeting her my first day only to learn that our lives have crossed many times in the past. We don't believe in growing older without a lot of laughter. She loved this book, and passed it on to our friend, and one of which we share our so-called "support group", and she is enjoying it, too. We all have problems of one kind or another, but when we all get together it's a wonder Tim Hortons doesn't throw us out for disturbing the peace, we are laughing that loud. So, Dick Van Dyke, one of my favourite actors and entertainers, you have done what you set out to do. Made a believer of me and my friends.

All that personal stuff aside, (I only included it because it shows just how much we enjoyed the book and follow the theme), this is a remarkable book on living without aging. The rest of the title is "And Other Tips and Truths About Living Well Longer" and certainly fills the bill. Now in his nineties, Dick Van Dyke is enjoying life as much and maybe more. He is still active, sings and dances and refuses to feel "old". I very highly recommend this book to everyone. Not just us "old folks" who are really 'way ahead of our predecessors for many reasons. Laughter, friendship, walking, exercising mind and body (crossword puzzles are great for keeping the mind active), all this and more will keep us young. So many memories in this book from the past and forming today as well. His advice to keep making new memories, don't just sit around, move or go out as much as you are physically able and ignore what you are not physically able, take up new interests you are capable of, music, jokes, laughter, friendship, all will keep you young. This isn't to say that Dick hasn't had his share of sadness having lost two life partners in his lifetime. His memories of these two women are fresh and young, and fortunately he has found his partner, his wife, who though younger is very much in tune with him. He has children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren he is proud of and enjoys. This book also brought back the work he accomplished that I grew up with, the sitcoms, the movies, who could forget "Mary Poppins" nor can I forget "Bye Bye Birdie" one that you don't really hear that much about any more, but I remember it. I didn't realize that he was in the airforce during WWII, at the young age of 18. So many famous entertainers did go to war, and some lost their lives. This is a heart-warming book, nostalgic but not lessening in its message. Be young, age is just a number. I enjoyed every bit of this book as well as his conversations with other favourite performers. I still love the Dick Van Dyke show, as well as the other later ones. A very likeable man who I hope will be with us a long time yet.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall

by Shani Struthers
reviewed from e-reader

A story all too often heard, particularly in the times of the event. It's Christmas Eve, 1958; it is also Cynthia Hart's 31st birthday. It was a time of big movies in colour, and wannabees drawn to the studios like flies to honey. Cynthia is already a huge star, but tonight she will die. How? Why? We'll follow along the search for these answers with the Psychic Surveys group.

The Psychic Surveys group are devoted to helping the dead into the light, but this will be no easy feat. Where most calls come from people who have purchased houses that were built on land where "Britain's most notorious mental asylum" once was, and could very easily have activity terrorizing them, the group attends them all and has very informed, dedicated and sensitive members, usually explaining and helping these spirits into the light, then performing a house-wide cleansing. The group consists of Ruby, Theo, Ness and Corinna, all with different abilities. They will have a difficult task ahead. They have been called in by a very rattled homeowner, reporting what appeared to be a very angry spirit. Theo, first on the scene, has felt the strong presence herself, strongest in the master bedroom and ballroom. It seems that Cynthia has never passed on although she died many years ago. Her estate had been willed to her maid Sally, and subsequently Sally's nephew Alan Kierney moved in, he is the one who called the group.

Of ghost stories, this one is a bit unusual to say the least. She is not willing to leave. Her death was recorded as a heart attack. What from that night could have caused such a thing at the top of her career? She appears to be terrified and no one could convince her otherwise. What is holding her back? The secret will have to come out soon so she can escape.  In the meantime, a ghost dog has been found at the last house barking and disturbing the neighbours, add it to the pile of queries. While checking the neighbourhood, she meets a young man who strangely is reading the same book "Drive Like Hell" seems a fitting book for the circumstances.

Questioning what Ruby did, she is always thrown off, fortunately she doesn't fall back on her usual wording, but explains she is a psychic surveyor. Of course Cash is confused, but she manages to explain her part of the rescues. This, of course, brings questions re a ghost hunter, no, she is not a ghost hunter but a psychic surveyor, there's quite a difference. She is intrigued by him, but wary. Dressed casually, she wondered what he did. "I'm a website designer, freelance." Wow! This is something helpful or so she hopes. She is needing a website for her business but knew very little about such things. Of course this requires a lot of time between them to a) learn about website control and b) teach what would be needed in her particular work. Her training coming mostly from her Gran, they must be sure everything is precise. For whatever reason Cynthia is terrified to leave and spends most of her time hiding in a small compartment in her room. Oh, Cash has a lot to learn, and fast! The next day is going to be a wild one. He is willing to learn though, especially learning from Ruby.

Cynthia appears to be severely traumatized. She is in complete terror about what is ahead for her. Nothing seems to calm her. The group tries very hard to reason with her but for some reason she is sure that someone from her past sold her soul to the Devil. What? Much as they try to soothe her and reassure her, it will take at least one more visit from them. This was a great read, I loved it and could not have imagined the ending, with suspense building up to a crescendo, I really didn't see it coming. Great story-telling! I would happily read more of this series.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

If the Bed Falls In (Book 1 of the Bedfellows series)

author Paul Casselle
reviewed from e-reader

- A Man in Two Minds: are Either of Them His?
A most unusual book, a deep psychological thriller that kept me glued to it. I actually enjoyed wandering around what seemed like illogical thoughts of the prolific characters in Tom's head. Quite fascinating, in a strange way, almost like a manifestation of split personality except there are too many other characters with him. But what is really odd is that no one else seems to acknowledge that he isn't who he should be, but is exactly who they think he is. Who, then, is a killer? Is anyone?

Most of  the group meeting appears to have some connection to Tom's crew of imaginary and diverse agents; a planned assassination, but who will do it? What role will each play? Who or what is the Spring? Well, that is at least one thing that may be explained. It apparently doesn't matter who does what or thinks what, as backup they have a British Olympic shooter. Now the question bodes, who is the target and why? Does anyone in this group wonder? Why do different members of the plot keep showing up individually in the dark of night?  Everyone wants information on the Bedfellows, not least of them is Will and Cyril.

I really enjoyed this book, fast action, but I have to admit I took notes to keep the characters sorted out simply because I wanted to have the information straight to write this review. It all makes sense in some strange way. The smoothness with which the characters, though often changed, were carrying out the subplots was remarkable. International spies and an assassin but they are all the same yet different. What a wild ride through an addled mind. Is it something affecting the brain? Is it Tom's previous use of cocaine causing a cocaine hallucination? How can that be, it's not just him that changes character but all his friends and cohorts. This book is fun, scary, and a bit off the wall, and that's what makes it so enjoyable. I'd say it was a murder mystery, but the mystery is that the murdered turn up alive...every time! Paul Casselle is a very talented writer, precise and exciting. The title is derived from the old Goodnight, Sleep Tight rhyme with two extra lines I'm not familiar with but it's very fitting, and perhaps a clue.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Fool Me Twice - a Carol Golden Novel #6

Author Alan Cook
reviewed from e-reader

The latest book in the Carol Golden series and once again Alan Cook has put a new spin into the story. Carol, the girl of many names and few memories, is now the wife of Rigo who saved her life in the first book, and the mother of Stevie, an adventurous and bold one-year-old. One might say that he is determined enough to maybe someday follow in his mother's footsteps.

This time around, Carol finds herself completely befuddled in how to deal with the elderly victim of a huge scam who refuses to go to the police. Both are rather adept in figures and puzzles, but Peter Griffenham, a retired professor who taught business courses, seems reluctant to pursue any action on his behalf to reclaim a very large sum of money that he wired to an unknown. Though he worries his son is going to try to get control of his money, he has just parted with $100,000 to an off-shore account. Is this the action of the author of a book, "Holding on to Your Money" he wrote years ago?

It's hard not to like Peter, but equally hard not to give up on him, enough to want to pull your hair out. He's not dense or senile, one supposes he is one of those people who either don't want to admit they made a mistake or one who doesn't want to get anyone in trouble. Whichever, it seems that one embezzler has been beaten to the punch by another. Amy is a delightful surprise in this book; she is smart, beautiful, an actress and a puzzle. The relationship between Peter and Amy is unusual but I feel both benefit from meeting each other, not in the usual beneficial way of friends but friendly with a few surprises. What is keeping Peter from going to the police or a lawyer? Who does he really suspect? For that matter, he seems to have a few surprising secrets himself. With Carol still trying to retrieve her memory each book has me involved in a very different story. Another fascinating book by Alan Cook, as always, I find the gymnastics of logic in the story very entertaining.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Hummingbird Wizard by Meredith Blevins

reviewed by e-reader
by Meredith Blevins

Wow, this book almost wore me out! Fasten your seatbelts, you're in for a wild ride! The characters are fun to read, always plotting against each other or with each other, characters you won't readily forget. This mixed Gypsy and non-Gypsy family is fascinating to follow. Full-blown life and sudden death; a dose of magic and the paranormal mixed through the plot. Who is the mysterious Hummingbird Wizard? Gypsy lore, bit of culture mixed in. This is a story to keep one glued to the pages. Meredith Blevins has given us a remarkable roller-coaster of love, murder and deceit. It is also a very full story with a lot going on throughout. The matriarch is fully in control, fierce but full of life. A true gypsy fortune-teller and a woman of many surprises, she is a bundle of conflicting emotions and brings the reader into them like a moth to flame. So many twists I got dizzy. The interaction between Madame Mina and Annie Szabo, the mother-in-law and the widowed daughter-in-law, is a tug-of-war of feelings. I don't believe I've ever read a story like it. It grips you and doesn't let you go. First in the Annie Szabo Mystery Series, and I think I'll be back for the second.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

War, Spies and Bobby Sox - Stories About World War II at Home

reviewed from e-reader
by Libby Fischer Hellmann

The first part of this book was amazing, and the rest of the book ran true to its beginnings! It is very suspenseful, very well-written, and though fiction, is full of factual occurrences or persons. I don't speak of just the beginning of the book, as it is really three stories of war, so I find it easier to concentrate on each separately. Nevertheless, the whole is still wartime in terms of WWII, and how those at home cope, or often don't. These are the times I grew up in. Those of us old enough to recall what it was like growing up in the troubled times of the 1930s and 1940s, then in the mid '40s through the 1950's the beginning of the nuclear age with all the fears and the famous "duck and cover". The terror inflicted by the armed forces, FBI, CIA, and other organizations that your neighbors may be Communists and should be reported. This chapter in history turned innocent people into spies and this theme runs throughout the stories. But I digress, simply because this book is so close to home, the memories flow.

Libby Fischer Hellman has dug deeply into that dark pit where one enemy infiltration, particularly the Nazis, leaves off and another, Communism arrives. It is also the beginnings of nuclear experiments. And so we begin, following the life of one Jewish girl, Lena, whose family is among those who are seeking asylum in other countries. Sent to live with relatives in America, she never hears from her parents again. Libby starts the story fairly close to the time the United States came into the war, particularly into the 1940s of Rosie the Riveter, European countries gobbled up, women desperate for love and families, but we also find that there are spies. These covert infiltrators seek to enlist people to spy for them, report to them, give them intel, but never let their chosen know who they are really working for. Lena has been working in the Physics Dept. in the university, who better to induct? She has a young child, she is poor, she is alone, working where the early development of splitting atoms is going on. Of course she has been sworn to secrecy in her job, who better to train as a spy? The events in this section of the book are very close to reality. Especially what she is spying on. I found this book to be a very honest fiction if such can be said. Lena is trained under threat, becomes a very good spy but does have some tricks up her sleeve, too, if it weren't for an additional demand for her to spy on the spy, more or less. Who is spying for whom? A shockingly big twist near the end of this part. This first section of the book I will leave here, the reader must enjoy the suspense for themselves. I am moving into the second part.

This is what this book is about, life for those left behind whether Jews seeking asylum, families receiving letters that their loved ones have been killed, teens trying to handle blossoming sexually, living on farms where POWs come to work. The latter certainly applies to Mary-Catherine, who is at the heart of "what happens in rural America". The war has basically ended against the Nazis, though some Nazi POWs don't believe it; but the attack on Pearl Harbor has turned the world against Japan and sped up the race to splitting the atom. The world was ripe for picking. Spies and counter-spies played a huge part at this time. This section features a young farm girl and POWs who come to work under guard on the farm. Mary-Catherine's father is still fighting in the Battle of Midway. As the family, mother, two young children and a beautiful teen-age girl, hear a truck rumble in they come to see what is happening. The mother gives her assent to the guard for the prisoners to work on harvesting the crops. The prisoners are a mixed group, German soldiers, SS, Nazis, even intel; some arrogant, some friendly, some unscrupulous, at least one honest; and any of them can be enemies still, spies, especially one prisoner who is a loyal Nazi. A fight between prisoners of different factions, a lockdown, a murder, an accident; and a disgraced daughter is sent away. Another glimpse of what can and will happen when consorting with the enemy. They've had time to think and plot escape. A short story, but very honest in what could and often did happen post-war. This story was compelling and sad, taking place entirely in Illinois.

Now we come to another side on the home front. The day Miriam Hirsch disappeared. Two boys from different parts of Chicago; Jake Forman in Hyde Park, a German Jew and Barney Teitelman in Lawndale, the Jewish neighborhood on Chicago's West Side whose family was from Russia or Lithuania. The families are opposites in most ways, but the boys remain best friends. It was in Lawndale where they first see Miriam, beautiful, an actress, probably a German Jew. Next they knew, Skull, a low-level gangster, began to be seen with her. The area they were in, where Barney lived, was composed of gangs, though protective. Irish street gangs, Nazi sympathizers, and Skull, casino owner. Jake was devastated to see them together. Then comes an evening when he and Barney overhear Miriam tell Skull that she "...won't do it. Stop asking me." The conversation carries on in much the same tone, Skull wanting some information, pleading with her. Did she agree finally? He is hugging her, but they don't hear an answer. After that night they never saw her with Skull again. Her routines were different. Skull tries to hire the boys to work for him. And here we come full circle again. No trust, become an informant, murder, but the real common denominator is hatred and suspicion. All the parts of the whole. A novel that seems more like the truth. Lives lost, conspiracies grow, threats become reality. This book is truly exceptional, three parts of a whole. One of the best. Libby, you've done it again.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

No Darker Place - a Shades of Death novel by Debra Webb

published by MIRABooks
written by Debra Webb

There is no darker place than the mind of a serial killer.

Tension started mounting the minute I started reading this book by Debra Webb. I'm not sure I can take a breather, I know I will become deeply involved in the story. Bobby Gentry, police officer, is the first survivor of kidnapping and torture by the Storyteller, a serial killer who normally sticks to a once-a-year killing. Since he met Bobby, once a year was no longer the case. How could he carry on with the same timing once she had escaped? Even after he killed her husband and her baby died. Bobby's long healing physically and mentally is still taking its toll on her when she is finally allowed back in the force. This is a story of revenge. She believes it is "her" case and wants to solve it herself, taking extreme chances, trying to draw him out of the woodwork so to speak. Her prime objective is to kill him. She knows he will be waiting for her. Now she fears he has taken the nurse who treated her. She knows that he will commit the same horrors on Gwen as he did to her. There is no darker place than the mind of a serial killer.

Who is the stranger who is hunting the killer? He seems to have been stalking him for a very long time, but he is not with the police nor the FBI. Although both groups are aware of him and his search, no one knows who he is. This is a very tense and well-written thriller, The first book by Debra Webb that I have read and it's a killer, metaphorically speaking. As always, there is a back story that is as horrific as the present; and indeed the back story here runs true to form. Now Bobby's biggest nightmare is coming to life. A sudden shock of fear as women begin to arrive at the police station asking for Detective Bobby Gentry and bringing with them photos of their children who have suddenly gone missing. This is one of the Shades of Death novels and it definitely fits this novel. There are many shades of death. There is so much included in this storyline, victims of illness, accident, and yes, definitely murder, but not your normally quick and deadly murder. Enough to make your toes curl and your heart pound. Who can outwit and remove the Storyteller before he can claim Bobby once again?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Paying Back the Dead - a Millerfield Village mystery

reviewed from e-reader
author Carrie Marsh

Who killed the taxman?

Imagine the pleasant surprise of hearing one is going to get a rebate when they are simply expecting to pay their taxes. Top this off with finding out the consultant she is about to see is the husband of her mother's cousin. Cousin Judy. A relative they had lost contact with over a number of years. In this delightful British series, unfortunately this reunion was not to be, at least not today. Instead, Laura will be seeing a different consultant. After an hour she finds herself a few hundred pounds richer heading home.

Laura has a special bond with her pet cat, it's as though they are able to communicate almost as two humans. I enjoyed the connection between the two. A most communicative feline at that. I have to say besides Laura, the best character and most fun is Monty the cat. I love the setting of this book, I feel connected somewhat, living in the country by a small town myself, though I've never found a body, which is something that just happened at the very bank she came from. Who would kill the husband of her newly discovered relative, even if he wasn't well-liked? Clues are found, suggesting murder, but very strange. As always, I like to learn something new, and the probable cause of death gave me that. A slight nod to Romeo & Juliet when our star-crossed lovers can't get a moment to themselves because of the case. How can Howard help Laura solve the case when the police keep her on such a tight rein? When Laura meets Judy at a tea, she feels extreme sadness in Judy's life. What will happen now to Laura's cousin Judy and her children?

There seems to be a slight lull toward the middle of the book, but when Laura gets a feeling of being watched and unexplained break-ins happen, it takes on a more sombre feel. Who is stalking her? It feels like even the police are involved in the mystery, and there is slow progress on the murder. Why is a famous person who supposedly left the village the day before in a hurry still there? Who is with her? A very interesting and enjoyable cosy mystery with an unexpected twist; I look forward to reading more by Carrie Marsh. I usually read more serious mysteries, but enjoy dipping into a cosy as well, especially those with unique twists. This one makes me want to backtrack and read the previous ones. Besides, I've fallen in love with Monty!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Bootlegger's Goddaughter (Gina Gallo #5) by Melodie Campbell

published by Raven Books

For sheer wackiness, character portrayals and laughter galore, you can't go wrong with Melodie Campbell's Gina Gallo mysteries! Rapid Reads give you a complete story in a novella, the perfect combo for Gina Gallo's exploits trying to escape her family "business" whatever it may be. No matter how hard she tries, she is always drawn in. But what do crows have to do with anything? Well, obviously everything, because as so-called harbingers of bad luck they are outdoing themselves in this latest book. Not to mention everything is screwing up her upcoming wedding. From being robbed to her wedding venue blowing up, and being shot at, she is not having a good day. Such is the life of a Sicilian goddaughter who is a don't-wannabe. Her continued efforts to stay out of the family businesses are hilarious and makes for a great series in a quick but full-fledged read. I love Gina Gallo's exploits.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Uneasy Spirits: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery Book 2 by M. Louisa Locke

reviewed from ebook

This is the first book by this author I have read, and I am sure to read more! I enjoy the history of Spiritualism in a time when palmists, palm readers, tarot, mediums and seances were extremely popular. One thing I found interesting in the book was the beginning of each chapter featuring a news headline, which I firmly believe is an actual headline from the 1870s. That said, this is a particularly well-written story with great character portrayals. The book is suspenseful, intriguing, and strangely captivating in its portrayal. The characters are consistent, except possibly in the case of Evie May. Evie May is totally unique and fascinating. Who is Evie Mae really? Annie Fuller, hearing some possibly unscrupulous practices about a mesmerist and a medium who hold seances, decides to investigate, hoping to to help save her clients and other people from being duped. Aside from the investigation, the book is really in the category of a "mystic" but deadly mystery, and I for one am glad to see it is a series. I can hardly wait to both catch up by reading Book 1, then following the further adventures of Annie. M. Louisa Locke is the perfect author for this series. I loved it!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Murder at the Fourth: a Jenny Pickett Mystery Book 1

author: Duncan Whitehead
review from e-book

Imagine the difference in lifestyle for a detective from Miami when she retires to the very small town of Forest Pines, Montana. A peaceful, friendly and quaint town with no terrible crimes to attend. Or it was, until a body is found on the local golf course among the trees by the fourth hole. In a town this size you might expect to find Barney Fife! Fortunately, the Chief, though young and certainly inexperienced when it comes to murder (and also has a thing for Jenny), gladly accepts the help and advice of the retired Jenny Pickett. Without her assistance he might have seemed inept, which we learn is not necessarily the case.

I found the first part of this book as more of a cozy mystery that got more and more confusing as to who is with who, obviously a marriage license doesn't make it any less confusing once the town gossip begins. Too many alliances, too few truths. On the other hand, it does give some fun to life in a small town. The book continues in this vein, until Jenny relives some old memories, the main reason why she retired from Miami police and moved to the small quiet town. In the latter part of the book, while still working on the Forest Pines case, Jenny, who has become deputized by Sheriff Steve Calder, discovers that the assailant in Miami she most fears from the past is pursuing her. The book is an odd mixture of fun and flirtation, horror and terror, with several twists, several candidates for the murder on the golf course, and a cold case that just heated up. This is the first book I have read by the author; I am sure I'll be reading more, I enjoyed it.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Wild Irish Heart (The Mystic Cove Series Book 1) by Tricia O'Malley

Reviewed from e-reader

This is the first I've read in this series and I enjoyed most of the storyline. Full of surprises for our main character Keelin, but I found so many things I just couldn't understand in the character of her mother. That said, I definitely am interested in reading more of the series. I loved the feel of the small Irish village in the book, and the "Mystic Cove" of the title was very unusual in its character. Yes, I said character, because there is no other way to properly express the behaviour of the cove. There are many secrets in the village, secrets that Keelin has no knowledge of. I thought the author Tricia O'Malley included some fascinating differences from others of the genre in handling the extreme learning curves Keelin goes through. I think the story is a unique take on the theme of the abilities she has never been unaware of. Very quick action on the part of sexual attraction, but the Cove has some influence there, too.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Innocent Heroes - Stories of Animals in the First World War

by Sigmund Brouwer
published by Tundra Books

This is the second book I have read by author Sigmund Brouwer, each one very different from the other. I was fascinated by the use of true stories in telling the stories of animal "soldiers" in WWI, especially in the fight for Vimy Ridge. With the Canadian army stuck in the trenches and their working animals so thoroughly trained and alert to serve at a moments' notice in any capacity, all were prepared to do what was needed regardless of what the commanders of the allies wanted done. I wasn't sure what to expect but as a proud Canadian who was the young daughter of a soldier in WWII, and interested in history, I learned a lot more about what that meant.

Each short story features a fictional version of a factual animal story. Told as fiction perhaps brings more focus on the close bond between human soldier and animal. I enjoyed reading these double stories, the fictional perhaps setting us up for a more in-depth look at events as they were. Following each is the "real" story the fictional animal was based on. I'm impressed by the vividness of the faith each has in the other "partner". I definitely would recommend this book for almost every age, even perhaps used in schools around Remembrance or Armistice Day. How proud we should be of these faithful animal assistants in war and of their handlers. What was accomplished by these two factors working together and the way the Canadians respected their orders in battle was both fascinating and amazing.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Kill Fee - Poppy Denby Investigates (Book 2)

written by Fiona Veitch Smith
published by Lion Fiction

This is the second book in the Poppy Denby series and how I wish I had read the first! Historical fiction at its best. Written as taking place primarily 1917-1920, it was a time of both chaos and entertainment. The story takes place mainly in Britain with many pieces of the puzzle taking place in Russia.

Poppy is the arts and entertainment editor for "The Globe" newspaper in London, England. She is part of the "in" club through her work. What I particularly liked before reading the storyline, was the list of fictional characters and their connections, and also the list of historical characters and their connections. This fictional account takes place just at the end of the Russian Revolution and into the following civil war in Russia. The author has included at the forefront of the book some of that history to help with the storyline.

I loved this book! The storyline takes many twists and turns from both Britain and Russia from about the time of Lenin. Beginning with the murders of Rasputin, royalty, and others and the escapees coming to other countries as well as Britain, spies, moles, Red and White Russians, Faberge eggs, and stage performances, there is a lot going on at all times. Great characters, engaging storyline, I congratulate Fiona Veitch Smith on an exciting series I'm sure will be running for a long time. The 1920s, oh, how they roared!